Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In defense of bragging

My son's photos were on display this weekend, and I'm bragging to everyone who'll listen.

One of the coolest side effects I've seen as a peripheral member of the parenting blogging community is the near death of parenting perfectionism. It is not necessary to have every hair or child in the proper place to be proud of one's role as a parent. In fact, it's dishonest, because we all know better. Embrace your imperfections. Make a microwave meal and camp out in front of the television once in a while. Laugh about how long it's been since your kid's had a bath. (Swimming counts, right?) It's cool. No one's perfect, and it's beautiful.

However, one of the crappy side effects of this side effect seems to be that you can't brag about your kid, or your skills at parenting, or your kid's skills at anything, without ample justification. I find myself resisting gush and pride and sentimentality every time I talk about my son, and I'm not so good at it. I ran into the superintendent of my son's school district the other day -- who's known me since he was the principal at my junior high, and thus insists on calling me "Kimbo," much to my son's amusement -- and aside from thinking it figured that I was wearing my holey ASU shirt and my hair in a pencil, I was stumped when he asked "What's your son been up to?" It wasn't that I didn't have an answer. I had too much answer. I didn't want to look like I was bragging.

Why the heck not? I have concise, modest, won't-take-much-of-your-time answers for most everything else in my life: job (I write. You've probably read some stuff, if you're in Arizona), life passions (Spiders. Photography. My kid. Writing. Not necessarily in that order), marriage (We watch nerdy sci-fi shows. We eat Panda Express. We suck at flirting), hobbies (same as passions). Why can't I have one thing that I don't rein in? What's wrong with that thing being my kid?

I guess I really don't think it's sentimentality. I won't put it all out there at once (and find tomorrow's "blog followers" at zero, no doubt, and justifiably), but I don't want to rein it in.

So, his photos. A couple of months ago at "Bye Bye Buzzards" day at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, my son followed up on a request to volunteer with Adobe Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, quite on his own. He'd made the request six months previously and had researched, carefully considered, and planned for it in in the intervening time. He's so much more than someone who thinks animals are kind of cool. He's in it for the long haul, and this is a kid who isn't always in a SpongeBob episode for the long haul. He asked about turning in an official application, and in the mean time, wanted to know what he could do. After watching him patiently take pictures for at least half an hour, he was invited to donate some of his work to raffle off to support the center. We used the shots seen throughout this post (all of which link to beautifully embiggened versions). They all printed beautifully at 8 x 10.

He beamed. He was introduced around, met Adobe volunteers and the coordinator, gave eloquent descriptions of his photos. ("I was five when I took this. I was focusing on the cactus but I wanted to get the thunderstorm in the background. I was eight when I took that one. The pond looks like a purple mirror, and I liked the effect.") At least a dozen times he was asked to meet this coordinator or that photographer, always with the introduction: "Those nature photos? Guess who took them? Guess how old he was?"

His talent was recognized, and I don't see why I shouldn't be telling everyone. He knows his way around a camera, but what's more is his eye. He has an incredible eye for things.

There should be a bumper sticker. I'm proud of my photographer. My kid could photograph your star athlete. Something. I'm bragging.

What's your kid's talent? Or one of yours? Or two of 'em, or ten. C'mon. Do some bragging.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eat prey, love

We have grooves in our knees and the heels of our hands from propping ourselves so long in this position on the back porch. We watch the mantis as it dances left and right, makes a feint, sort of jigs back and forth. Finally, it flings its arms out, snatches the carcass. Stretchy goop (entrails? Do spiders have those?) dangles from its mouth as it slurps in half of an arachnid I'd saved for just this purpose. One bristly leg is the last to disappear, going in almost exactly like spaghetti. I impale the remaining portion of the body on a thin stick, using the oozing viscera to glue it to the utensil, and hand it to my son, who offers the mantis a second bite.

We're the most fascinated spectators -- at times the only spectators -- in the clearing, watching the raptors. We watch for at least an hour. Most people pass by, snap a shot or two, identify the birds for their kids (occasionally even getting the names right), and steer them away before the hawk can tear apart its mouse or the vulture can crack the skull in her rodent. We keep watching. I think we were the only ones who didn't miss it: the sinuous lines in the smooth pink rodent muscle (the hawk had already neatly skinned her meal) as it was pulled taut, the gentle, beautiful silence of the clearish white fibers parting -- not tearing, exactly -- the soft ripping ssshk and yank of her head as she freed a chunk, the satisfied look as she tossed it down.

For a would-be vegetarian mom and a full-blown vegetarian kid, we love carnage around here.

We admire them, is what it is. Predators are awesome, and fascinating, and I have to admit a certain amount of smugness in seeing the beauty in things that gross out most folks. However, lately I really find myself just admiring their approach to life. *

I'm currently a prey animal. Life happens to me. I very much want to be a predator.

Prey animals sort of have to be pessimists. They monitor for an attack; they expect (and inevitably receive) calamity. Their entire being is adapted for withstanding an onslaught: sideways-glancing eyes, speed for flight, sheer numbers to account for replacements in the event of their probable failure.

Predators are optimists. They plan for the next windfall to be right around the bend. Talons and muscles built for seizing, forward-looking gazes, amazing ability to focus. A hawk has to know a mouse or rabbit will come along soon. A mantis has to wait, focused, on a wall ledge until a fat fly or spider presents itself, and then must grab it immediately. A bald eagle won't build a nest in an area unless the habitat is just right. Predators count on things being good, and they act on that assumption.

I know we're a bit of both, as humans. Prey and predator are both special and beautiful, and they both inspire conservation in their ways: the first is all about the fragility of nature, and the second, I think, inspires us to make the world the animals seem to see. And I really do want to be a vegetarian one day, I think. But everyone loves bunnies. On a purely how-fascinating-is-this level, predation rocks. Scavenging rocks. I can't understand why there isn't more about it out there. Maybe I'll fix that. And if I had to model a worldview after one or the other? I'm going with the predators.

If only I could get my vision to clear and my talons to work.

*My anthropomorphized version of their "approach" to life.

But wait, I'm including useful stuff now! Related real-life info:

Now is a great time to see red-tailed hawks in Arizona. Look up. They're on practically every other phone poll around here. Also, you know that REEEEEE! sound every raptor ever makes in movies? Well, most birds don't make that noise. But red-tailed hawks do. If you hear that, that's what probably made it.

If you're in the Phoenix area this weekend, check out the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center open house! (That's a link to the event listing, where you can download a pdf flyer. I hate linking pdfs.) I'll be there Saturday, and my son's photographs will be up for auction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A peek inside my head

I've been mapping out a blog schedule of sorts, and also dealing with a host of non-blog issues. Today I sat down to finish a post. These were all the notes I found on my desk -- on little slips of paper, scribbled on the backs of envelopes, and in one case, on the inside cardboard surface of a pizza box. I thought all of these things were important enough to write down. It's not helpful in the least for my post, or the article I also need to write, but if you're wanting something to tide you over, these notes probably tell you all that you need to know about what goes on inside my head. Which is cluttered. And likes to start ideas that may or may not have legs. And likes cheese of "all kinds," apparently.

Ways my life = South Park

Eat prey, love
predation = optimism

traumatic insemination


Clowns and stupid Aaron

On raising black widows

Address! Mail TODAY

David mating quote

mantis vs. mantis

Send invoice, again?

Orng chk x 2, chow mn
BJ beef, or chk, msh chk, chow mn

print/frame photos

cat litter
cat food
cheese (all kinds)
kid pizzas

spontaneity story - bear encounter/dancing/braless fever

some sort of alchemy to it

post mortem photography

the idea of transformation

Call DMV

You can expect to see a few of these fleshed out in the future. Probably not the Panda Express or shopping list ones.